So far, the 2016 potato crop in the US looks to be similar to last year. “Plantings are down slightly compared to last year, but higher yields are expected to make for similar supplies,” says Scott McDulin- Vice President of Marketing/Retail Sales with Schmieding Produce. In August, Texas will start harvesting its Russet potatoes, but the majority of US potatoes will be harvested between late September and the end of October from Idaho, Colorado, Wisconsin and Washington.
Opportunities in specialty segment
Specialty potatoes continue to outpace other varieties of US potato consumption. “This is the fastest growing segment and it is most profitable as well,” mentioned McDulin. “However, today it only represents 3 percent of all potato sales in the US.” Specialty potatoes come in smaller packs and consumers are willing to pay a higher price. The organic potato category is growing as well. Last year, sales were up 12 percent, but organic potatoes represent only 4 percent of all US potato sales. “Organic potatoes are lagging behind other produce categories due to consumer demand and current supply limitations,” according to McDulin.
Russet sales down
Consumption of Russet potatoes on the other hand has been hurt in recent years. “The popularity of low-carb diets has resulted in some bad press for Russets,” mentioned McDulin. Year-over-year, this category shows a slight decline. With 53 percent of fresh dollar sales, Russets still are the largest variety within the category and will continue to be the volume driver for the potato industry.
Skinny potatoes and smaller packages
In response to industry trends, Schmieding Produce is bringing innovation to the category in an effort to re-energize Russets by introducing new products. “This coming fall, we will launch the skinny potato: A Russet with a serving size of 100 calories,” said McDulin. The company is currently presenting new items to retailers and according to McDulin, the items have been “very well received”.
In addition, Schmieding Produce is increasingly focused on convenience. We are adding more packaging options. This includes smaller packages (between 1 and 4 lbs) as today’s consumer is looking for smaller packages. Also, added value packs that include seasoning are gaining ground as well as microwaveable potatoes.
Schmieding Produce is vertically integrated. Last year, its parent company Woerner Holdings purchased 1,800 acres of potato farmland in the San Luis Valley in Colorado. Around the same time, Canon Potato Company was purchased, which is a storage and packing facility located in Center, Colorado enabling Schmieding Produce to supply its customers from Farm to Fork.
For more information:
Vice President – Marketing/Retail Sales
Schmieding Produce LLC